By Matt Noonan
For the second time in two seasons, Jamie Rice will lead Babson’s men’s ice hockey team into Fenway Park on Thursday evening to face-off against ECAC East rival Norwich University.
The Beavers and Cadets met two years ago at Frozen Fenway with Norwich claiming a 4-1 victory.
This time around, both squads will take the ice as ranked units, according to the latest D3Hockey.com poll. Norwich is currently the fifth best team in the country, while Babson is ranked sixth.
Yet, rankings and records aside, Rice is just excited to return to the hallowed grounds where he attended a few Red Sox playoff games last fall.
“We’re just really thankful to the Red Sox and sports management and all the people that made this a reality for us and Norwich,” said Rice. “Coming off a World Series championship, I think the stage is a little bigger.
“Our kids are excited, the families (are getting) excited, but as a program, as a college and as an athletic department, people are talking about it and that’s a good thing.”
Frozen Fenway, which returned for the second time in two years, commenced at the end of December with an Atlantic Hockey matchup between Bentley University and Holy Cross. Since then, the historic ballpark has hosted a variety of college and high school contests over the past few days, including a Hockey East double-header, which featured Merrimack vs. Providence and Boston College vs. Notre Dame.
This year’s Frozen Fenway, though, does features two additional Division 3 matches with UMass Boston taking on Salem State and Williams battling Trinity.
“It’s tremendous,” Rice said when asked about having a few Division 3 contests at Fenway. “I think it’s great for Division 3 hockey and I think it’s great exposure. It does give us an opportunity to kind of be the big boys.”
The Beavers enter Thursday’s contest having won back-to-back games last week over Colby College and Salem State. Babson is currently in second place in their conference and has won 11 of 13 contests this season, including five ECAC East tilts.
Last season, Babson defeated Norwich twice. The Beavers edged the Cadets in their first meeting, 4-1, before earning their second win in the conference championship. Norwich, however, did defeat Babson in the NCAA quarterfinals, 4-0.
On Monday, sophomore netminder Jamie Murray was named the ECAC East ice hockey goalie of the week for stopping 45 of 48 shots in two contests. Senior co-captain Troy Starrett was also honored by being named to the Weekly Honor Roll, and since returning to the lineup, the Bellingham native has notched two goals and three assists.
While Thursday’s game will indeed count in the conference and overall standings, Rice expects his team to not only continue their solid play, but also embrace the opportunity.
“For our kids to be able to play in this game (is) a lifetime memory,” said Rice. “(My players) will go to Fenway for the rest of their lives and say, ‘I played there.’”